An elevated blood concentration of homocysteine is an established risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia, but associations between cognition and methylmalonic acid (MMA), a related metabolic marker of vitamin B-12 deficiency, are less clear.
The aim was to determine the utility of serum MMA and holotranscobalamin as markers of vitamin B-12 status in relation to cognitive function and to investigate their association with discrete cognitive domains.
This was a cross-sectional survey of 84 nondemented elderly participants (aged >69 y) from the Welsh cohort of the Medical Research Council's Cognitive Function and Ageing Study. Cognitive status was determined by Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Cognitive Section of the Cambridge Mental Disorders of the Elderly Examination (CAMCOG).
Nearly one-half (43%) of the persons selected had likely metabolically significant vitamin B-12 deficiency. Higher MMA concentrations were associated with lower MMSE scores independent of age and education (P = 0.007). MMA concentration correlated inversely with CAMCOG scores of ideational praxis (P < 0.05) and language comprehension (P < 0.05) and expression (P < 0.01). Serum folate correlated weakly but significantly with language (P < 0.05), remote memory (P < 0.05), and constructional and ideational praxis scores (P < 0.05 and P < 0.01, respectively).
The high prevalence of likely metabolically significant vitamin B-12 deficiency in the elderly is associated with lower cognitive function scores and particularly with lower scores of language comprehension and expression.